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Channel 4 being investigated by Ofcom over subtitle outage: ‘These problems caused deep upset’

Ofcom has confirmed it will investigate Channel 4 over a subtitle outage last year that left its services inaccessible.

The regulator was left ‘concerned’ after an incident at a centre run by Red Bee Media caused ‘significant disruption to several broadcasters’ operations, including their access services,’ with Channel 4 being particularly badly hit.

The outage began on September 25 and was not fully resolved until November 19.

The regulator confirmed that the broadcaster was still able to to meet a statutory requirement to subtitle 90% of its programme hours over 2021.

However, it caused Channel 4 to fall short of its subtitling quota on Freesat, a satellite TV platform used by around two million UK homes.

Ofcom is now investigating ‘Channel 4’s under-provision of subtitles on the Freesat platform and the surrounding circumstances.’

Kevin Bakhurst, Ofcom’s Group Director for Broadcasting, said: ‘These problems caused deep upset and frustration among the millions of people who rely on subtitles, signing or audio description to enjoy TV.

‘Channel 4 took several weeks to provide a clear, public plan and timeline for fixing the problems.

‘As well as investigating Channel 4, we’re reviewing the wider effects of the outage to make sure broadcasters learn lessons and protect access services in future.’

Shows including the Great British Bake Off were affected (Picture: Channel 4)

Channel 4 told in a statement: ‘We apologise for the significant impact the Red Bee Media incident had on our access services. Channel 4 would like to reassure our audiences that we have thoroughly reviewed the resilience of our systems to ensure that such a catastrophic event cannot harm our ability to deliver these essential services in the future.

‘Whilst we have not met our own high standards in 2021, we still delivered all of our overall statutory obligations and we are once again offering market-leading access services.’

Red Bee Media added: ‘Following the incident, we collaborated with our customers, landlord and business partners and all services are now restored. We have also undertaken extensive measures to understand the cause of the incident and are evaluating all options to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

‘The services most affected were operating on older technology platforms. Red Bee’s new platform is inherently more resilient and customers who were already on this platform experienced minimal disruption as a result of the incident.

‘Multiple customers are in the process of transferring to the new platform, and it is our ambition that all customers will do so. All new customers will also automatically be on the new platform.’

Channel 4 said during the outage that they were doing everything they could to get subtitles back up and running.

What is Ofcom and what does it cover?

Ofcom is the regulator for the communications services that we use and rely on each day.

The watchdog makes sure people get the best from their broadband, home phone and mobile services, as well as keeping an eye on TV and radio.

Ofcom deals with most content on television, radio and video-on-demand services, including the BBC. However, if your complaint is about something you saw or heard in a BBC programme, you may need to complain to the BBC first.

Its rules for television and radio programmes are set out in the Broadcasting Code.

The rules in the Broadcasting Code also apply to the BBC iPlayer.

This Broadcasting Code is the rule book that broadcasters have to follow and it covers a number of areas, including; protecting the under-18s, protecting audiences from harmful and/or offensive material and ensuring that news, in whatever form, is reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality.

Audiences can complain to Ofcom if they believe a breach of the Broadcasting Code has been made.

Every time Ofcom receives a complaint from a viewer or listener, they assess it to see if it needs further investigation.

If Ofcom decide to investigate, they will include the case in a list of new investigations, published in the Broadcast and On Demand Bulletin.

An investigation is a formal process which can take some time depending on the complexity of the issues involved.

Ofcom can also launch investigations in the absence of a complaint from a viewer or listener.

Credit: Original article published here.

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